Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Pandemic Response Exposes Class Differences

DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in New York City, and the disparity between the haves and have-nots is so real, it’s scary. We are an average family, but we see now that being middle class almost equals being poor these days. Many of my neighbors packed up and shipped out as soon as news of the pandemic hit our city, which has more cases than anywhere else. It was like a Friday evening in the summer, when everybody goes to the Hamptons or to wherever their country homes are. We don’t have a country home.

A lot of my kids’ friends have left. As they are talking over Snapchat, my kids now realize that most of their friends who once seemed equal to them are actually way better off in their fancy second homes.

How do I keep my kids calm and deal with everything that’s going on when part of it is hard to discuss, including why the disparities are so different from family to family? Suddenly I feel poor and disadvantaged. -- Haves and Have-Nots

DEAR HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS: Continue the conversation that I hope you have been having already, namely that people’s means vary widely, but their value as individuals is not reflected by their bank accounts. Without being envious, it is OK to say that it’s great for those who can afford it to own second homes. There’s nothing wrong with that, nor is it “less than” to have only one home.

Explain to your kids that your family lives based on its means, which may be different from some of their friends. Ask your children to tell you what they feel is important in life. Encourage them to talk about what they care about, what they value and what they are willing to fight for. Point out that these core points are more important than how much money they have.

Also be sure to encourage them to learn to admire what others have without feeling jealous. We are all different.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My best friend told me that she is going to try to get pregnant during this time that we are all sequestered at home. She got married last year, and she and her husband had planned to wait until they got their finances in order. Then she said, “What the heck? We are home all day. Why not make a baby?”

She asked my opinion, but I’m afraid to tell her how bad an idea I think that is. Who knows if either of them will be employed in the coming months? Should I tell her my thoughts or just stay quiet? -- Solicited Advice

DEAR SOLICITED ADVICE: Since your friend specifically asked you what you think about her idea to get pregnant now, you have permission to tell her the truth. You are right to want her to pause before making such a pivotal, life-altering decision. Having children is a huge responsibility that comes with financial requirements. In the best of worlds, your friend will be in the most secure position possible before deciding to get pregnant. No need to pass judgment, but do share your feelings -- only because she asked. Whatever her decision, be sure to support her.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)